How to Choose the Right Standby Generator  10/7/2009

Waukesha, Wis. – October 7, 2009 – Choosing the right standby generator for your home is just like selecting a new dishwasher or refrigerator – you have certain needs and you want the best. Generac® Power Systems, Inc. has recognized the need to educate the public and make it easier to make the right decision when choosing the appropriate generator for the home.

There are a number of items to consider when deciding what back-up power solution will work best for one’s home and lifestyle. It is important to do the research and read between the lines – especially when a family’s safety is at risk.

Generac has developed this easy guide for consideration as you begin the process of purchasing your new standby generator.

1)         Who makes it? – Be aware of the company’s reputation and leadership in the generator category. It helps to choose a brand that is solely focused on generators to ensure you are getting a quality product from a trusted company.

2)         Exterior Shell – Don’t overlook the exterior shell of the generator! Be sure the external enclosure, or casing, of the generator has easy access for servicing. Hinged enclosures are best. Be sure to stay away from bolted enclosures which make it much harder to service the generator. Also, be sure to choose a generator with a rust-resistant shell, ensuring longer life of the generator.

3)         Sound Levels –Be sure to consider the sound decibel of the generator to ensure your generator won’t wake your family at night or interrupt your favorite television program. Most reputable standby generators will sound similar to an air conditioning compressor…or even quieter.  Look for models that feature a quiet mode during its weekly self-test, when most home owners will hear their generator running, since actual power outages are less frequent.

4)         Engine Basics/Sizing – Just like a car, the generator’s engine is its heart.  Smaller size generators use air-cooled engines while larger ones use liquid-cooled engines with separate cooling systems.

In either case, look for engines built for heavy-duty generator usage, and not adapted from other products.  The better engines have longer service intervals, requiring oil changes after every 200 hours of service or even longer. Beware of the electrical load your generator says it can handle. Do your math! Be sure the power of the generator matches the power needed to back up the circuits and appliances in the home you want to back up. Customizable solutions should always be an option.

5)         Day-to-Day Operation/Ease of Use – The generator should have its own programmable controller to allow for hands-free operation and is another key element to examine before purchasing a generator. The controller should act as the brain of the generator and alert the homeowner when it is in need of maintenance – making the generator very user-friendly for the busy homeowner. The best generators on the market today are much more homeowner-friendly and should work just like a normal kitchen appliance.  They have control panels that communicate with plain language that is visible on a LCD display, not just a series of warning lights.

6)         Warranty – Keep your eye out for warranty offerings and additional seals of approval – these are important. A quality generator company will always offer warranty flexibility that fits best with your needs and budget.

7)         Transfer Switches – These devices transfer your home’s electrical load from the utility line to the generator in the event of a power outage.  They should be matched correctly to the generator size, the amount of electrical load you expect the generator to back-up and they need to comply with local electrical building codes.  Your home’s electrical distribution panel is designed to carry a certain amount of electricity and the generator’s transfer switch should not allow more power than the distribution panel can handle.

8)         True, Clean Power – All generators create harmonic distortion which can interfere with sensitive electronic equipment such as high-end HVAC systems, plasma televisions and computers. The best generators produce less than five percent total harmonic distortion to ensure 100 percent compatibility with all household appliances.

9)         Ease of Installation – Installation of a standard residential standby generator should only take a matter of hours by a qualified installer. Some generator systems come with pre-wired transfer switches to make it simpler for the professional installer or a serious DIY’er.

10)      Dealer Network – A well-trained and well-qualified dealer is important not only when you first purchase and install the generator, but for years afterward for routine maintenance and service.  Make sure the dealer you choose is very familiar with standby generators and has an electrical background.  Generator manufacturers have widely varying dealer networks. The best ones give you many choices no matter where you live.

“It is very important to know all the facts before purchasing a standby generator,” says Clement Feng, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Generac. “Generac offers a simple, user-friendly sizing tool on the Generac website which makes choosing the right generator for the home even easier.”

A Generac Guardian series unit offers the highest output of any generator of its kind at the most competitive price on the market – ranging from eight kW to 60 kW. What consumers may not know is that the Generac Guardian series of residential automatic standby generators is backed with 50 years of experience in the power generation industry. The power quality also is best in its class, allowing for safe operation of sensitive electronic equipment.

For more than 50 years, Generac has been in the business of making generators for both homes and businesses. “This is all we make and we pride ourselves in being the nation’s leader,” continued Feng. “And as a leader, we continue to set the bar for high-quality, high-performing backup power solutions.”

Generac introduced the first gaseous-fueled automatic home standby system in 1989 and has been the leading brand ever since. Generac is a proud supporter of the Home Safety Council and has earned the Good Housekeeping Seal after evaluation by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. For more information on Generac residential and commercial products.

About Generac Power Systems, Inc.

Since 1959, Generac Power Systems, Inc., has been a leading, innovative manufacturer and marketer of portable and standby generators, automatic transfer switches, modular paralleling systems, and small engines for recreational vehicle, residential, and commercial applications. Generac’s power systems range in output from 1 to 9,000 kilowatts. Generac is a proud supporter of the Home Safety Council and earned the Good Housekeeping Seal in 2009.  For more information on Generac and its extensive line of both portable and automatic generators.


In 2009 Generac® Power Systems was selected as the Waukesha County Business of the Year and was named a top Milwaukee workplace by the Milwaukee Business Journal. The Generac Liquid-Cooled Standby Generator was selected as one of Professional Builder’s 2009 “100 Best New Products.” The Generac Guardian Series 20 kW Air-Cooled Standby Generator was named one of Professional Builder’s  2008 “100 Best New Products;” was a finalist for the Building Products’ “2008 MVP Awards” and Electrical Contracting Products’ “2008 Innovation Award.” In addition to the GenReady Load Center Panel, the 20 kW Air-Cooled Standby Generator received Professional Remodeler’s 2008 “50 Most Innovative Products Award.” In 2007, Building Products named the Generac® 16 kW QuietSource commercial generator one of its “2007 Top Products.” Generac also received Building Operating Management’s “2007 Reader’s Choice Award” for the QT Series of commercial generators. The Generac Gemini® Twin Pack was a finalist for Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s “2008 Product of the Year” award. Since 2006, Generac has been a Better Business Bureau Accredited business with an A+ Business rating.
1. Who is Generac?
Since 1959, Generac has been producing backup generators for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. We have quietly grown into the world's largest provider of residential stand by generators and currently sell five times more generators than all of our competitors combined. For over 50 years we have concentrated our efforts in bringing the most affordable and highest quality generators to home owners and business owners alike. Generac offers the broadest line of stand-by generators in the market; they are widely available and supported nationwide by the industry’s largest professional network of over four thousand factory trained service and installation dealers, and are also available at major retailers and wholesalers.

2. What is an automatic standby generator?
An automatic standby generator is a back-up electrical system that operates whether you are home or away. Within seconds of an outage, it automatically supplies power directly to your home’s electrical circuit breaker box. After utility power returns, the generator shuts itself off and waits for the next outage. It operates on natural gas or liquid propane gas and sits outside just like a central air conditioning unit.

3. How does a home standby system work? Watch here.

4. Why should I buy an automatic standby generator instead of a portable generator?
During a utility power outage, an automatic standby generator provides numerous advantages over a portable generator:

     The American Red Cross recommends permanently installed standby generators as a safer way to provide backup power to a home than a portable generator.

     With an automatic standby generator properly installed outside, your home is protected from deadly carbon monoxide poisoning that is a much greater risk with portable generators.

     Running on the home’s natural gas or LP fuel supply, it is less expensive to run than gasoline and does not need to be refilled.

     They start automatically within seconds of a power outage, and eliminate the need to haul a portable generator outside or run extension cords throughout your home.

     They provide protection 24/7, whether you're home or away, and they turn themselves off when utility power returns, so there is no need to monitor the unit during an outage.

5. What is the difference between an automatic air-cooled generator and an automatic liquid- cooled generator?
The engines! Air cooled generators come with engines that use fans to force air across the engine for cooling, while liquid cooled generators use enclosed radiator systems for cooling, similar to an automobile. Generally, liquid cooled engines are used on larger kW generators due to the larger engines required for the higher power output.

6. How does the Generac OHVI® engine compare to air cooled engines used in other brands of standby generators?
Unlike all other engines manufactured primarily for lawn and garden applications, Generac OHVI engines are made specifically for generators. They are engineered to run for the long periods of time required during a severe power outage or on a job site, utilizing the same type of pressurized oil lubrication used to give automobile engines long and trouble-free lives. Generac OHVI engines have a significantly longer life than competitive engines – an unprecedented three to four times longer – making them the best investment on the market.

7. How long can I expect an automatic standby generator to last?
Because Generac engines were developed specifically for generators and designed to provide approximately 3,000 hours of use, with typical usage and proper maintenance an automatic standby generator can provide in excess of 30 years of service.

Example: Weekly exercise time (11 hours per year) plus four 20 hr. outages (80 hrs/year) equals 91 hours of operation per year OR over 30 years.

8. What's the advantage of an aluminum enclosure?
In addition to its sturdy galvanneal steel enclosure with RhinoCoat™, Generac is one of the few companies to offer premium aluminum enclosures for its residential standby generators. Aluminum enclosures are naturally rust and corrosion resistant. For salt air or high humidity conditions, aluminum is highly recommended to ensure decades of worry free service.

9. Can an automatic standby generator replace utility service?
No...the generator fuel costs would be much more expensive than buying power from the utility company since their cost to produce electricity is divided among thousands of customers.

10. How do I correctly size a generator for my home?
The most logical way to determine your needs is to envision your home without power! Some outages may be short in duration, while others could last for days or weeks. What would you like your living conditions to be?

Generac takes the guesswork out of sizing by supplying the Guardian Series air cooled generators with predetermined numbers of circuits based on the generator’s kW power rating. For example, eight circuits are supplied for the 8 kW generator and as many as 16 circuits are supplied for the 17 kW generator. Each circuit is directly connected to a matched circuit on the home’s main circuit breaker panel, providing electricity to that specific appliance or area of the home.

In a typical installation with an 8 kW, eight circuit generator, you could connect (1) lights and TV in the family room, (2) microwave and lights in the kitchen, (3) refrigerator, (4) power to the bathroom, (5) computer and home office, (6) garage door opener, (7) air conditioner, and (8) furnace.

Generac also offers generators and transfer switches that can power the entire circuit breaker panel box...for these situations, we recommend consulting with an authorized Generac dealer or a qualified electrician

11. Can I install the generator myself?
Generac Guardian Series air cooled generator systems are prepackaged, pre-wired and come with comprehensive installation instructions. You could perform the simpler site preparation steps and have a professional make the electrical panel and fuel connections, or you could complete the entire installation yourself. However, for safety reasons and to ensure adherence to all local, state and national electrical codes, particularly for non pre-wired or larger systems, Generac recommends you use an authorized Generac dealer or licensed contractor.

12. Do they have to be maintained?
Yes, simple maintenance is required. Every Generac Guardian Series standby generator is powered by Generac’s Overhead Valve Industrial (OHVI) engine. These engines were designed specifically for running long hours in harsh conditions and have maintenance intervals that are twice as long as leading competitors’. All generators require periodic oil and filter changes to ensure maximum performance for years of reliable service. Preventative maintenance kits are available and many Generac dealers offer annual maintenance contracts for a worry-free ownership experience. Refer to the owner’s manual for routine maintenance procedures and schedules.

13. What type of oil should I use?
An SAE rated high detergent oil that meets API Service Class SF requirements for gasoline engines, similar to your car. Refer to your owner’s manual for details.

14. What happens if the generator gets over loaded?
Generac generators are equipped with overload protection. In the rare event of an overload, the generator’s circuit breaker will trip, disconnecting the unit from the load. Simply correct the overload and reset the breaker in the generator.



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